Allison Hunt, 15, a sophomore at Ledford High School, suffers from a rare lung disease.By Seth Stratton
When Allison Hunt was younger, she cheered, played soccer and took dance lessons. Although the 15-year-old Ledford sophomore was thought to have asthma, she tried to participate in as many physical activities as she could.
A diagnosis of a rare lung disease four years ago has put a halt to those activities and many more. But the determined teen is hopeful that a double lung transplant in the next six months may help her back into the dance studio once more.
Tamara Hunt, Allison's mother, said her daughter's world was turned upside down in 2006 when she was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, an irreversible, dangerous and rare lung disease that inflames the bronchioles in Allison's lungs, making it very difficult for her to breathe.
Tamara and her husband, Larry Hunt, Allison's parents, thought their daughter, like millions of other children, had asthma growing up, albeit a severe case. But after doctors at Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem took a CT scan of her lungs, they found some unusual nodules on them. They decided to take a biopsy of her lungs and sent them to a hospital in Texas and the world-renowned Johns Hopkins University doctors in Maryland for analysis.
Allison has been able to lead a pretty normal life since being diagnosed with the rare lung condition. But in October, her health and lung volume started to slowly deteriorate. She went back to Brenner for several visits over the next few months and was told to use an oxygen tank while sleeping. After more analysis and tests, doctors determined April 8 that Allison needed a double lung transplant.
The family set an appointment for Aug. 9 and 10 at Duke University Medical Center in Durham for further testing and evaluations. Allison and the family had to undergo tests and determinations as to whether Allison could be a candidate for a transplant, what costs the insurance company would cover and when Allison might be able to receive the life-changing surgery. At this time, Allison was also put on oxygen 24 hours a day.
On Monday, Allison and her family headed back to Durham for further testing. To be able to receive a transplant, Allison needs to put some more weight on her 59-pound frame, her mother said. This week, she will have a feeding tube placed in her to help her gain some weight. She will also have to participate in some pulmonary rehabilitation programs before the transplant surgery to prepare her body for the new organs.
Doctors have told the Hunt family that they hope to complete the transplant surgery within the next six months. After a donor match is found and the lungs surgically placed in her, Allison will have to undergo about four to six more weeks of rehabilitation at Duke before being able to return home to Thomasville.
Although insurance is covering 85 percent of Allison's medical bills, that still leaves a large amount uncovered that the Hunts have to pay for themselves. Tamara Hunt said the total cost for the evaluations, surgery and rehabilitation for her daughter will end up costing between $750,000 and $1 million.
To that end, the family has sought the help from the community to come up with the first $10,000. They have raised about $3,500 so far but still have a long way to go. To help meet that goal, a motorcycle ride for the Hunt family is being held at 10 a.m. Sept. 11. The benefit ride will begin at the Tractor Supply store in the Parkway Plaza shopping center near Cotton Grove Road and Interstate 85 and end at Bethany United Methodist Church, at the intersection of Bethany Road and N.C. Highway 47.
The ride is $15 for bikers and $5 for passengers and will include a silent auction, live music, food ($5 meal tickets are available for nonriders) and a 50/50 raffle.
A charity golf tournament has also been established to benefit the Hunts, set for Sept. 25 at Winding Creek Golf Course in Thomasville. Cost of the four-man team tournament is $50 each and includes lunch at 12:30 p.m. before the 1 p.m. tourney start. The prize for the tournament is $400 for first place; $200 for second place; and $100 for third place. Mulligans, two each, can be purchased for $5. For more information on the golf tournament, contact Larry Hunt at 688-2453 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of Allison's church, Faith Missionary Alliance in the northern Davidson area, have also been busy praying for the Hunt family and may provide a fundraiser in the future.
Allison's friends, Katie Pollard, Rachel Hall and others, have also been busy making friendship bracelets ($2 each or three for $5) and duct tape wallets ($5 for the small one and $7 for the large one) to sell to help benefit their friend. Allison is going to classes half time - she plans to take two core classes this semester and two next semester - and gets out at 11:30 a.m. each day.
Tamara also said that she has set up a fund at her employer, Bank of the Carolinas on West Center Street in Lexington, to help with her daughter's bills. Those who don't ride motorcycles or play golf can stop by a branch to donate, she said. Both her and Larry's employer, Thomas Built Buses, have been very supportive of the family, she added.
"She's a trooper," Tamara said. "She's a strong one. She keeps mine and my husband's spirits high. She just has a good attitude and good spirit about her. She knows the good Lord has taken care of her for 15 years, and he will take care of her in the future, too."
A Facebook.com page has also been set up to update the community on Allison's status. Search for "Praying for Allison Hunt(:" on the popular social network site.
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